Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s For Dummies
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Nowadays, there are multiple avenues to choose from when it comes to picking a bank. Are you more of a local, national, or digital type of customer? Find the benefits to each option below.

Online banks

Although traditional banks with walk-in branch locations are shrinking in number because of closures, consolidations, and some failures, online banking is growing — and for good reason. One of the biggest expenses of operating a traditional retail bank is the cost of the real estate and the related costs of the branch.

Online banks generally don't have any or many retail branches and conduct their business mostly over the Internet and through the mail. By lowering their costs of doing business, the best online banks may offer better account terms, such as paying you higher interest rates on your account balances. Online banks can also offer better terms on loans. (The only downside? No lobby means no basket of free lollipops.)

Online banking is convenient, too — you can conduct most transactions more quickly on the Internet, and by banking online, you save the bank money, which enables the bank to offer you better account terms. And because online banking is generally available 24/7, you don't need to rush out at lunchtime to make it to your bank during its limited open hours. (Note: Traditional brick-and-mortar banks now generally offer many online services.)

According to a recent customer ratings' summary done by Consumer Reports, the highest-rated online banks are (in order, starting with the highest rated): USAA, Schwab Bank, Everbank, Discover Bank, Ally Bank, State Farm Bank, Capital One 360, and E-Trade Bank.

Brick-and-mortar banks

The most obvious choice for banking is using a local bank you pass by on a regular basis. Although these types of banks are conveniently located, these banks may not be the most cost efficient. You can find two main types of brick-and-mortar banks:
  • Small-town bank: These banks only have a handful of branches. Some of the tellers may even remember your name and face. Hours are generally limited, and you may face extra ATM fees for using ATMs that aren't at one of the bank's branches.

A sometimes attractive, "small-town" banking option is credit unions. To join, you generally need to work for a particular employer (such as General Electric) or industry/occupation (for example, teachers). Thanks to a federal government exemption on income taxes, credit unions tend to be able to pay higher interest rates on deposits and charge lower rates on loans. Don't assume, however, that a local credit union always has the best deals; be sure to comparison shop. To locate credit unions near you, visit the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) website for consumers and click on the "Find a Credit Union" link or call them at 800-356-9655.

  • Big banks: Such banks tend to be regional, national, and sometimes even multinational. You may recognize their name from extensive advertising campaigns. They tend to have extensive ATM networks, which may reduce your ATM fees, but you pay for it in other ways, such as through less-competitive terms (interest rate paid, service fees levied) on checking and savings accounts.

Be sure to comparison shop among several banks and scrutinize their fees and interest rates on their checking accounts and any other type of account you may be interested in.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Eric Tyson, MBA, is a renowned finance counselor, syndicated columnist, and author of numerous bestselling financial titles.

Tony Martin, B.Comm, is a nationally-recognized personal finance, speaker, commentator, columnist, management trainer, and communications consultant. He is the co-author of Personal Finance For Canadians For Dummies.

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